Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

April 10, 2009

Steve Wynn on Ralston / Sunday w/ Charlie Rose

Posted by Hunter

Many of you have already seen the two part interview with Steve Wynn that Jon Ralston did. If not, watch here:

Part One (LV Sun)

Part Two (LV Sun)

Now, along with giving insight into his political beliefs, one of the more interesting bits is the talk about Wynn shopping for assets on The Strip. We also discussed this on yesterday's Vegas Gang. Would Wynn buy Bellagio? I think the consensus is that he meant what he said - if the price is right, Wynn Resorts may be game. This should not surprise anyone.

Wynn says Las Vegas is better off with multiple operators duking it out. I totally agree and hope that one of the positive outcomes of this downturn is that we have better, more vibrant bare-knuckled competition on The Strip. That would certainly make my job more interesting.

Can't get enough of The Steve? He'll be on 60 Minutes this Sunday with a piece by my favorite interviewer, Charlie Rose.


Read archived comments (61 so far)
April 10, 2009 5:49 PM Posted by Dave

Steve Friess has excellent summaries and commentary on both parts on his blog. It's at

April 10, 2009 7:58 PM Posted by NavinR

Steve made it clear he's a buyer on the Strip--at the right price. This is contrary to prior comments (saying Wynn Resorts is a builder, not a buyer). He menions South Strip--can anyone expand on what he was talking about?

The recent stock offer raised $200 million or so. I wonder how he would raise the rest of the cash necessary to buy a property.

And, which property? Bellagio is the most obvious, but probably the most expensive and the least likely to be for sale by MGM. Who knows--maybe he's looking at a non-MGM property--he mentions how overvalued Harrah's was when they went public.

Anyway this is an exciting development. I hope to hear more... maybe financing will become easier with credit and stock markets beginning to improve?

April 10, 2009 8:52 PM Posted by mike_ch

I don't know, seems to me like that if I were MGM and wanting to sell stuff the best options are the way south Strip stuff, and Bellagio. The way south strip stuff is easy to lose because they're having trouble staying competitive and their location doesn't help. Mandalay Bay is a good place but in my observation seems stuck playing second banana behind MGM Grand (if Jeff Simpson is right, and Murren isn't fond of acquired properties, this makes even more sense.) Luxor is getting old, Excalibur is getting very old.

Bellagio, on the other hand, has a list of interested buyers, which isn't the case for those other properties. And the place seems almost certain to take a depreciation hit when Aria opens and it fractures MGM's high limit play. Whatever Bellagio is worth right now, that value is partially built on that there's a lot of high-end play there right now, and when Aria opens and some people will naturally move over there, and it sounds like MGM directive is going to do everything it can think of to move people over there, that value will take a hit. So even if it isn't valued as highly as it was two years ago, whatever the value is, it's probably going to go down when Aria opens.

So if MGM sells, it's best for them to sell it while it's at top value and before they have to say "these hotels are old, come visit the new sexy."

Of course, the wrench in this would be if Aria falls on it's face with the public for whatever reason, a lot of people here have not been wild about CityCenter and it's metropolitan look. Things really go into the unknown if this happens, since it'll be a blow of ego to MGM for one thing, and it will definitely create a storm of negative press for Las Vegas if the numbers don't materialize. You think it's bad now...

Speaking personally, I'd like to see a deal. I think Bellagio could fit into the "Wynn Collection" just fine as a sort of alternative, flashy experience to Wynn's privacy and Encore's intimacy. I know that if it does happen, you can pretty much bet that all Wynn's poker play is going to move over there. WLV's poker room, a fenced off area with the zoo the theatres and Ferarri and the self-parking crowd going by, has never been it's strongest asset.

It's a move that would be good for Wynn the company, even if Wynn the man and the MGM people don't find it quite ideal. Steve probably doesn't have any interest in hands-on running Bellagio anymore, though I've heard that the digs there are luxurious he probably prefers being able to walk to his office in WLV from his villa. However, he has Tim and Tom who could run it for him.

April 10, 2009 9:00 PM Posted by Brian Fey

I'm not holding my breath on Wynn buying Bellagio, but its sure possible, and what a very strange turn of events, if that was to happen. MGM would only sell Bellagio, if they absolutely had too. They have a list of what they would like to part with, and I can assure you, that is last on the list. However, its first on the list as to which property would bring in the most cash. I've been trying to figure out what a fair price for Bellagio would be, and It would have to be north of $3 Billion for sure, I'd think. Any guess or thoughts from you all, as to what it might fetch, should it come down to that, and I don't think it will.

April 10, 2009 9:15 PM Posted by Brian Fey

If Wynn can fly to Macau on a monthly basis, to check on his 600 rooms, I think he might find the time to venture a mile south of Wynn/Encore to check on Bellagio if only a few times each week. But no, I don't see him moving there or his office, if this was to happen, which is still really a long shot. I was just telling my wife, if by chance this did happen, I'd still stay at Wynn, because overall, I still like that complex much better, vs. Bellagio. But as a shareholder of both companies. I would have no problem seeing this happen, it could be very beneficial to both companies.

April 10, 2009 9:39 PM Posted by mike_ch

Brian: $3b+ is sensible in the market of two years ago, but not as much now. I know you think that the economy will rebound and Vegas will be where it was, but I don't share that optimism. I think Vegas will be okay eventually in terms of business, but everything was hilariously overvalued until recently. Only now is being readjusted to something more sane. The value of Vegas casinos, the whole industry, was set way too high in a rush of can't-lose enthusiasm.

Based on what Jeff Simpson says, since he probably has greater connections than I do I'll just rely on him here, is that MGM is probably thinking somewhere in the range of $2-$2.5 billion and Wynn can probably open with an offer of $1.3 billion or so and then just sit back and wait for the clock to run out and raise his ante to something they're willing to play ball with in the eleventh hour.

Bellagio is worth more than that, but MGM's situation may have put them in an area where they will have to part with things at prices they aren't fond of. They probably would have liked more than $775 million for Treasure Island, too, if they could get it. You couldn't build a place for that much even ten years ago, let alone two. So, the nature of their situation, and how public it is, pretty much makes it a buyers market to a certain extent.

And I think they've probably tried everything they could to make the other hotels look more appealing: it seems like they tried to sell Mirage already, the Mandalay properties were written down recently and they've done everything they could to improve Luxor before the money ran out (Excalibur is a dive, yes, but dives are profitable.) Monte Carlo is probably not up for grabs becasue it's too close to CityCenter, NYNY has been a complete no-show, MGM Grand has lucrative entertainment contracts with the arena would require millions of dollars in investment to both the casino and thousands of the rooms (when there's basic rooms at Excalibur with LCD TVs and many tiers of MGM Grand with old tubes, they're behind the times) which makes it unattractive to buyers (and it seems like Murren may be more fond of it than hotels you and I consider 'better.')

I can't guess the psychology of these things but when Penn National kept talking about getting a price and now Wynn says he'd listen to a price, it seems to me there's a price out there.

April 10, 2009 9:54 PM Posted by mike_ch

In addition to all of that above I'd like to mention that the last time Bellagio changed hands, it was undersold. MGM acquired Mirage for less than the value of the properties because it was on financially weak ground.

If Steve does buy the place, maybe he'll promise to put out a press release hailing it as a friendly deal. I just hope he remembers to get the WET Design contract thrown in.

April 10, 2009 10:25 PM Posted by BobK

I'd guess that Wynn would take Mandalay Bay and the surrounding property for a sub-$1 billion. Wynn talks about having 10,000 rooms and a large convention center on the existing golf course. MB would give his team a decent sized convention center (run by an internal services team vs farmed out at the Sands Expo or LVCC). An event center. And a midmarket property that could be the farm system for future whales.

Don't think MGM would give it up and the unused land around it for less than $1.4 billion but if it went for a fire sale price, I'd think Wynn would jump at it.

April 10, 2009 11:27 PM Posted by Art

The south strip properties are an interesting idea, but given that Wynn has built his brand on high end properties, I don't know that he'd want to dilute it by acquiring things like Excalibur just for an attractive margin. Bellagio makes more sense. It fits much better with with the Wynn image and would give him a center strip presence that he doesn't have with the current properties.

Plus, it's pretty obvious at this point that MGM has bet the farm on City Center. They need capital, and besides.. having one of their own properties next door to detract business just seems really counterproductive.

April 11, 2009 8:35 AM Posted by detroit1051

Very informative on the business aspects of Wynn acquiring Bellagio, but from my personal perspective as a guest, I'd move back to Bellagio from Wynn in a heartbeat if Steve buys it and restores it to its original quality.
Mike_ch gave me pause when he wrote, "However, he has Tim and Tom who could run it for him." Maybe they've matured since the days of the Golden Nugget, but I wonder whether they can operate a top-tier property. Interesting. Of course, it depends on how and where Steve would position Bellagio in comparison to Wynn/Encore.

I followed Steve to Wynn Las Vegas because of the total experience he provides, but as nice as Wynn is, it doesn't give me the same feeling that Bellagio does. And, isn't that much of what Las Vegas is, "feelings" and emotional reactions? Since I have not been to Encore, I can't relate to how it interacts with Wynn Las Vegas.
Bellagio- best parking structure in Las Vegas with quality finished elevator lobbies down to the entrance which leads one directly into the conservatory and lobby with the overwhelming visuals both provide.
Wynn-good parking structure but with unfinished elevator lobbies down to the entrance which opens into a hallway with a car dealership and a poker room with gawkers standing around.
Bellagio-wide open spaces with beautiful views of conservatory and the Chihuly ceiling.
Wynn-nothing to excite when checking in to Resort Rooms.
Nothing can compare to the mosaic tiles and marble used in Bellagio. Even Steve couldn't replicate that quality when he built Wynn.
The Bellagio fountains have become the visual image of Las Vegas. Wynn has nothing to compare. Yes, I know Steve didn't want to provide free shows to those on the outside when he built Wynn, and yes, Bellagio's fountains attracts a lot of gawkers on the Strip sidewalk, but it remains one of the most, if not the most, spectacular sights in Vegas.
Is there anything to compare with Petrossian, Fontana or Baccarat Lounge? I still don't understand why Steve shortchanged Wynn on lounges.
POOLS AND CONFERENCE AREAS: Although both properties are similar in that the conference rooms are beyond the pools, Bellagio pulled it off better, in my opinion. however, the expanded conference areas near the Spa Tower show the different approach to quality appearance MGM takes in materials and appearance.
ROOMS: As Steve says in every interview, he tries to learn from each project. Wynn's rooms are more spacious and laid out better, as are the suites, but both properties are first class.
Elevators: Bellagio's elevators are definitely too far from hotel registration, but the private suite elevators compare with the convenience of Wynn's Tower Suites access.
Views from restaurants: Nothing can compare with the fountain/lake views from Picasso, Circo, LeCirque, Jasmine, Yellowtail and Olives.

I believe Bellagio can still attract a high-end, probably more conservative and older clientele than Wynn/Encore, and it would be great to have the choice of either complex under Steve Wynn's expertise. Bellagio's proximity to CityCenter will be a huge draw regardless of who owns Bellagio.

April 11, 2009 9:53 AM Posted by Jeff in OKC

I think Bellagio is the key to the future of MGM. CityCenter is being built because MGM felt Bellagio put them at the top of the Casino universe, yet they saw a way to go higher right next door. Strategically, geographically and demographically Bellagio is at the center of the companies future, and I think every major investor and lender is in agreement with that concept. Selling Bellagio equals failure.
I also think every big talker and wannabe Strip operator will claim they took a look at Bellagio, but "the moeny wasn't right", it goes with being the most famous propery in a generation. Also, If Mr. Wynn can keep his name in the mix, it weakens MGM, while enhancing his reputation at the same time.

April 11, 2009 10:48 AM Posted by cgriff

Interesting interview. Wynn was schooling Ralston, not just on finance and the gaming industry (as one would expect) but also on how to interview someone, and Wynn more than intimated that he the interview was not an enjoyable one (very funny).

Wynn referred to members of his board of directors as "fancy people"... Thought that was interesting.

In reference to the MGM/Mirage and Harrah's empires, "Bigger isn't better... better is better." That's a great line.

During the discussion about purchasing Bellagio, Wynn referenced "south strip", "convention hall", "monorail", and then "Excalibur" by name. This sure sounds like the Mandalay Bay/Luxor/Excalibur corridor to me.

April 11, 2009 10:53 AM Posted by Hunter

Yes, he referenced the Mandalay Mile several times - both in terms of building it (calling it a good idea) and MGM buying (saying they overpaid).

April 11, 2009 11:27 AM Posted by mike_ch

Detroit: When I talked about Tim and Tom, I meant the day to day casino and back of house stuff. I'm sure that unlike the Ruffin deal, a Wynn/Bellagio deal would probably result in a couple top resort positions being cleared out and replaced with Steve's people.

I'm sure he'd invest a few million into the place, but all the details and contracts (like what restaurants he'd keep and close, if MGM takes the Chefs away to Aria since they share so many, whether Wynn would keep the current nightclub operator or put Drai in there to renovate, etc) is just stuff you simply can't make any kind of educated guess about.

I was just saying that as far as not building things but simply managing them, I don't think he'd be over there much. Sure, he'll put a few new numbers on the water show playlist and put the standards back on the casino sound system, he'd probably just visit every three or four days to make sure it's being kept up and that all the lights are lit.

Then again, Brian says he crosses the ocean every month just to check up on Macao, so who knows. (but he's also building something in Macao.)

April 11, 2009 3:21 PM Posted by Andy S

Really interesting, I didn't think Wynn would buy anything, now I'm not so sure. Assuming the golf course re development is now on indefinate hold, what funds would Wynn have to buy other strip properties? I would think it would be win win to keep the golf course and buy Bellagio at a very competative price.

It would be great if Steve bought back Bellagio and the Mirage and they would both fit well into the 'Wynn Collection'.

While I could possible see him buying Mandalay, I dont know what they would do with Luxor and Excalibur, they also both need massive investment.

I also suspect the argument that Monte Carlo will not be sold because it is next to Citycenter is no longer true as I doubt any future expansion.

Looking forward to seeing what happens!!

April 11, 2009 5:35 PM Posted by mike_ch

I don't know if the golf course development is on hold so much as it is pushed back. It may wind up being vaporware for all we know, but Wynn has a pretty good reputation of actually building things when he says he wants to. In the course of interviews we've gone from "central park" to a convention centre, so it's clearly something he's still dreaming on. The golf course was originally scheduled to go in 2010 but I think with the economy the way it it will probably be around until 2012.

I'm not sure Mirage really fits in the Wynn profile. In the Encore opening interviews, Steve called the Mirage formula to give people a room on par with the Flamingo, but with a flashy Caesars style show downstairs. It would wreck the prestige they're building up to have that under their brand.

It's all certainly money he'd rather use to build than re-buy old assets, but he seems to have really picked up a few lessons on being a businessman since the Mirage Resorts days (and could teach some other Strip leaders a thing or two,) and if that WSJ writer's book was accurate that Steve is building a company to outlast him, having 3 of the top 5 places is a smart move.

April 12, 2009 12:23 AM Posted by Lance

Mirage has recently been renovated, and that is a plus. But it is still an aging property and has its problems. I don't think that Wynn is interested in buying a low-end alternative to Wynn/Encore. Bellagio makes more sense as it is a high-end alternative; of the same caliber, but for a different type of customer.

I was just in Mirage two weeks ago and walking through it, I do have a great sense of nostalgia for it. I do love standing in the dome and taking it in. The exterior I think is beautiful, and still relevant. Inside - it is showing age. I think Wynn is less nostalgic for Mirage than for Bellagio.

Does MGM Mirage also have an exclusive contract with Chihuly in Vegas? I have noticed that, since Bellagio, there are a number of Chihuly pieces throughout their properties. Usually in high limit areas.

I wish Wynn/Encore had some such "artistic expression." Still, I would rather instead of just putting more Chihuly everywhere, he find a new discovery.

I do somewhat agree with Detroit1051 about the bar/lounges. Is there anywhere at Wynn/Encore to hear live music?

On another note - for whatever reason my Wynn pipe/wet-dream is that he would buy the Elad/Frontier site across the street. And develop that into something amazing. He loves to control his view!

That site would give him space to build (of course he has the golf course for redevelopment - but it is nice now). He could do more hotel over there. He could do convention center.

But - what really thrills me is the idea of a bridge from Wynncore across to that site. I don't know what the law will allow as far as size there. But a bridge there could function creatively as many things. Retail shoppes, dining (imagine a restaraunt hovering over the strip), and signage/entertainment (some cool attraction kinda thing expanding on the Wynn 'sign-as-entertainment' idea).

Also, I'm curious on how Wynn would build a Bellagio now. I know he now is about Intamacy over Grandeur. But, I'd love to see what his current take on the Bellagio lobby would be? The conservatory? The Fountain show?

Whoa. I'm drifting way off topic! A boy can dream though.

April 12, 2009 12:33 AM Posted by Lance

Just a final thought about size and grandeur though - he did once claim that the golf course redevolopment would include a lake twice the size of Bellagio. That's pretty grand!

I'd love to see something new and creative staged there. (not like Wynn Macau's Bellagio fountain knock off). I love the possibilities of Water Screens. or Perhaps 'artier' version of Epcot's "Illuminations" or Disney Studios "Fantasmic."

That actually reminds me of a very early idea for what eventually became O. A show that was to be Fire, Water, Earth - and to be in some gargantuan amphi-theatre type space. Does anyone remember this idea, or possibly where I read it?

April 12, 2009 5:56 PM Posted by detroit1051

I watched Charlie Rose's interview with Steve Wynn on 60 Minutes. The East Coast feed was delayed by the Masters going into Sudden Death.
Maybe I'm just too familiar with Las Vegas and Steve Wynn, but the interview didn't teach me anything new. I did enjoy the nostalgia of Strip shots from the 1980's. When they showed the barren land on which The Mirage would be built, it brought back memories of me standing in front of that land and then buying shares of my first gaming company, Golden Nugget, GNG, because I liked GN and figured Steve Wynn must know what he was doing.
CBS said more with Steve Wynn would be on Charlie Rose's PBS show.
The interview is here:

April 12, 2009 6:17 PM Posted by Doug

Just a quick comment concernnig the 'poker play' at Wynn moving to Bellagio if Wynn buys the property. It won't happen...All the high limit poker players will be moving to Aria in December. Just like they moved from the Mirage to Bellagio. At that point all the high limit poker play will be split between Aria and some of the games at the Venetian with Wynn holding on to its quiet well-dressed crowd. I don't know what's going to happen to Bellagio poker, but once Aria opens it won't be 'the main room' any more.

April 12, 2009 6:24 PM Posted by Hunter

What is your comment based on? Some sort of secret ARIA poker promotions coming in December?

April 12, 2009 6:30 PM Posted by mike_ch

Why would Wynn's "quiet, well-dressed crowd" not want to move to a Wynn-run Bellagio? The room there is quite resplendent and, especially at the high-limit tables in the back, you are not on display to the hustle and bustle of visitors.

WLV's poker room is well appointed but I always feel like I'm walking past the Mirage white tiger display: see poker players in their natural habitat!

April 12, 2009 6:33 PM Posted by Hunter

Yeah, 30 years into his public career, the story was still all about introducing him to the public. Anyone that follows Wynn has seen this stuff many times.

April 12, 2009 8:45 PM Posted by Joe

Just curious but, what makes you guys think that Wynn might buy the Bellagio?

April 13, 2009 1:44 AM Posted by Doug

Hunter/mike_ch - My thoughts on the poker topic are just based on decades of playing in the Las Vegas poker rooms and 'knowing' the crowd. I played at the Golden Nugget when Wynn owned it and I played at the Mirage when it first opened and at Bellagio when it opened.

From what I can see the players are following Wynn to an extent, but mostly Bobby Baldwin and the poker room managers. And more than that...where Doyle Brunson decides to hold court - that becomes the 'big room'.

ARIA having a great poker room is just a hunch because of Baldwin and I thnk he'll want the big players there. I might be wrong, but I doubt it.

The current Wynn players love the place and I don't see the serious players leaving the 9-handed tables at Wynn to play at those 10-handed tables at Bellagio.

LIke I said, I could be wrong about this. We'll see.

April 13, 2009 6:24 AM Posted by socalduck

The CBS interview was a let-down. I suppose if you never heard of Steve Wynn, it might have been interesting. I was hoping for some more insight on the current and future business environment, Wynn's future development plans, etc., but it never happened.

However, the discussion about the South Strip is quite fascinating. It's hard for me to imagine Wynn having any interest whatsoever in Excal or Luxor, but M-B would have a lot of potential. Assuming whatever issues with the soil settling have been resolved, M-B could be "re-imagined" to Wynn standards for much less than the cost of building a new resort. The location next to the golf course as well as the events center are also big pluses. The only issue will be price: it is hard to imagine this complex, with all of its assets, selling for less than $2 billion.

April 13, 2009 12:34 PM Posted by David McKee

There's another reason I can think of for Wynn to make a play for The Mirage or M'Bay: Recapturing the middle-market customers who stayed at "Wynncore" (great term!) when "Fill the rooms" was Wynn's mandate, before he reverted to high-end rates. If buying M'Bay would spare him the expense of building a convention center instead, I could see it holding even more appeal.

Since we're also discussing Aria, was anybody else disappointed with last week's rollout of the restaurant portfolio? As with its narrow imagination regarding entertainment and decor, MGM seems to have an empty bucket of culinary ideas, going back to the Serrano/Mina/Robuchon/etc. well time and time again.

No? Just me? Oh well.

April 13, 2009 12:37 PM Posted by Hunter

I think I posted something when the restaurant info originally came out a few months ago but I totally agree - the ARIA restaurants show a distinct lack of creativity in the MGM Food and Beverage Department.

April 13, 2009 12:57 PM Posted by mike_ch

Am I the only one who finds it loony, especially at this point in his career where he's established himself as the Bentley of casino resorts, that Wynn would want anything to do with a former Circus Circus property? I like that hotel, but he's put them down as not detail-oriented enough so much over the years that I can't see him trying to turn around and pitch one to the public. It's also a rather large property, but then again so is Bellagio.

Does he really need an arena and convention centre that badly? I just can't see him interested in anything that doesn't minimum get the five diamonds.

April 13, 2009 9:15 PM Posted by Brian Fey

Obviously, Wynn would buy anything for the right price. Anybody would. But, being realistic, I can see only see Wynn interested in buying back one of his old properties. I would be shocked, and speechless to see Wynn buy another place, unless he got it cheap enough to level it, and start fresh. Once again, sure he'd buy Mandalay bay for $500 Million, but I just don't think he's interested in buying any property, and keeping it running, if its not one of his old babies. And I don't really know that I see him buying a mid ranged place either, he'd almost be better off, trying to cut back on their extravagant design and building their own mid leveled property. I mean as crazy as it sounds, Wynn has done it before. He built TI for under $500 million, so, he can build quality resorts on a budget. Obviously, you can't build things as cheap as you could 15 years ago, when TI was built, but with the huge recession Vegas is facing, I do think you'll be able to build a resort cheaper, now than you could a few years ago. Some materials, but especially labor might be much less. But basically, unless things get way worse, I really don't know realistically that I see Wynn buying anything. I think he just wanted to cushion his bank account, to make sure his company is secure, with plenty of cash in the bank, to weather this storm. I think Wynn's main goal right now is paying down debt, not adding more. If Wynn buys any resort in the next year, I'd be pretty surprised.

April 14, 2009 12:26 AM Posted by Arthur

I tuned into Charlie Rose's PBS show today and it was not Steve Wynn but Michael Caine...anyone know when Wynn's second interview with Rose is on PBS?

April 14, 2009 4:26 AM Posted by detroit1051

Arthur, it's now scheduled for today, April 14 at 11 PM EDT. Charlie Rose said it will be an extended version of the 60 Minutes interview.

April 14, 2009 7:06 AM Posted by Jeff in OKC

I don't think Wynn buying the Madalay properties is any loonier than some of our other theories we throw around here. How about Mr. Wynn started at the high end when he began to rebuild his empire because it was easier, and had more immediate upside? He has always had a broad based business model before, and has a strong populist aura, as well as his high end appeal. He has always admired the Mandalay properties, I'm not saying loved them, and could see this as an attractive time to make his business last long after he's gone.

April 14, 2009 1:48 PM Posted by LemonSky

I love the insight of the frequent contributors on this blog, so I have some questions:

1) Does Mr. Wynn have any personal animus or more mildly, slight aversion towards Sheldon Adelson? If so, could this drive Mr. Wynn to purchase MB and its convention center to compete with LVS' convention center?

2) In what kind of shape was Golden Nugget when Mr. Wynn purchased it? Was it analogous to the shape of Excalibur today (even though Excalibur recently upgraded its pool and added "widescreen rooms"). In other words, does he have the desire to fully gut a property and start over, even in today's day and age?

3) When Treasure Island was built, wasn't it intended to be a less expensive alternative to Mirage? If so, did Steve look at this as a strategic way to market to those who may ultimately, someday, afford tonier digs? Would this have correlation to hypothetically purchasing MB-Luxor-Excalibur, in the hope those patrons will someday be ones of Wynncore?

Personally, I've been to Wynn and Encore (never stayed there, though) several times and I have to admit that there's in ineffable quality that leaves me underwhelmed. I don't feel "it" at Wynn or Encore like I feel "it" at TI, Bellagio, and even the new M. It has something to do with the energy of the place, but I'm not invoking any New Age bilge, or anything. Maybe it's because I'm in my early 30s and I've yet to develop refined tastes or something.

BTW, I'm looking forward to see if TI has changed or feels different under the stewardship of Mr. Ruffin.

April 14, 2009 3:28 PM Posted by mike_ch

1) Wynn-Adelson is a very public feud, which began somewhere years ago. The way Adelson has told it once, he went to Wynn and told him to leave Mirage and work as a designer at Sands. Upon hearing this tale, Wynn said Adelson must be off medication and mused why you'd ask someone who owns a company to work for another company.

Wynn suggests Adelson doesn't get along well with any other companies either, but they're generally pretty mum since MGM, Harrah's etc are more corporate and don't have those singular personalities. Recent LVS drama suggests that Adelson had clashes with some other people in the boardroom.

2) Golden Nugget was a casino without any hotel rooms at all, which was Wynn's most notable contribution the place. I'm not sure anyone on this blog has visited the Nugget before Steve, maybe Dr. Dave has some photos of inside the place. The way Wynn and many books have told it is that his other big contribution was juice with celebrities, kind of like a 1978 George Maloof.

3) The psychology behind TI, as described by Wynn in his Freiss interviews for Encore: Wynn was fine with people staying at places like Flamingo and coming to visit Mirage without staying there, letting a huge market of hotel rooms go by. Then in the early 90s he attended a newly-opened Excalibur and he decided it wouldn't be hard to compete for the mid-market.

Treasure Island was basically an annex for Mirage, Wynn wasn't very personally invested with it and apparently left most of it to Roger Thomas (who today is somewhat ashamed of the place, according to the Encore opening walkarounds.) It was built at the same time as the original, boat ride mummy's tomb version of Luxor, and the original Emerald City version of MGM Grand. Of course, all three hotels are completely unrecognizable from what they were when they opened.

Treasure Island was not really intended to carve out it's own niche so much as provide additional rooms at the Mirage and give Steve some more slot machines. They were targeting the same market, it's just that Mirage was booked so solid they were turning customers away. In fact, Treasure Island's opening was kind of upstaged by the implosion of Dunes going on the same night.

Dunes/Bellagio was really what was on Steve's mind and Treasure Island only got slotted as the bottom of the totem pole once Bellagio opened and they clearly had more than one tier of hotel.

April 14, 2009 3:46 PM Posted by Brian Fey

LemonSky - Mr Wynn and Sheldon are not fans of each other, I think would be a nice way to put it. They have fought each other in both Vegas and Macau for years, they both have very different thoughts on how a business should be ran and structured. Obviously, I'm a huge fan of Wynn, but to be fair, you have to give Sheldon his due credit. He has in his own little way, also be a visionary of Las Vegas. He is the one responsible, for bring us many things that were unheard of in Las Vegas, like huge 700+sq ft standard rooms for example. He was the first one to put a mini bar in each room in the mass market vegas area also. I don't personally use the mini-bar, but its nice to know its there, if you do really crave a coke at 3am, and don't want to get dressed. Sheldon can also be credited, for bringing major conventions to town, his theory was this. Anyone can fill rooms on the weekends, with the CA crowd. But if you could book huge, major conventions during the week, then you could fill your entire hotel at get a top rate during the week also. His theory worked. But at the end of the day, as much as these two business men might not care for one another, they are both brilliant business people, and while I would not say, Wynn wouldn't like to compete with him in the convention business, it won't happen with Mandalay Bay. Wynn like to do things in his own way, and on his own terms. He did have long range plans to build a convention space on his golf course land, and that may or may not still happen, but short of that, he won't be buying a hotel, he does not care for, that he was not ever tied too, clear at the other end of the strip, just to get into the convention business. His whole reasoning for building a convention center, would be the same reason Sheldon did it, to fill rooms. Wynn can't fill Wynn and Encore's rooms, if his convention center is several miles down the Strip.

Almost 40 years ago, when Wynn bought the GN, it was not even a hotel. Back then, many of these places, were just casinos. GN was nothing more, than a old, run down casino. But Wynn slowly upgraded the people and the place, ultimately building a name for himself, and the company. He later added hotel rooms, to this property, and turned it into one of the top places in town. But to get to the second part of that question, Wynn is past buying old hotels and remodeling them. If he bought a hotel like that today, he'd just level it, and start all over. Too many things have changed over the last few decades, and its just does not make good economical sense to do that to his liking. You can spend all the money you want on a remodel, but there are just too many things that can't be fixed. For example, if a hotel had 8' ceilings, that's what they have, you really can't change that in a remodel. Yes you could take 2 rooms, and turn it into one, but in practical terms, its not feasible.

Yes, TI was Wynn's second major brand new hotel he built in LV from scratch. He built it a few years after Mirage got opened. Mirage opened in 1989, and TI was started a few years after that. TI opened in 1993, after a few years of construction. Mirage was doing great, but Mirage needed more rooms. Wynn already had the land, so he was able to squeeze another 2900 rooms on the corner. This helped lower his overall land cost for the Mirage project, and also gave him more rooms, for his convention bookings and events at Mirage. At the time Mirage was the top hotel in town, but a bit too expensive for some guest. TI was built for about $475 million, which was about 30% less than the cost he spent to build the Mirage. It allowed him to charge less for the room, and target a slightly less expensive customer. Wynn was somewhat successful in this accomplishment, but it didn't really bring him major joy. Because ultimately, Wynn loves to build extravagant and opulent properties, that can't be duplicated. He showed he can build a successful mid level property, in TI, but that's not really his thing. As I said earlier, Wynn would buy anything for the right price, but if he's forced to pay a fair value for them, don't look for him to buy anything that was once built and owned by Mandalay Bay Group/Circus Circus. The only thing I can see Wynn buying, and keeping, might be Bellagio, and possibly Mirage. Anything else he would buy, would just be for the land, more than likely.

As for you're not being blown away by Wynncore, I don't know. Its certainly not for everyone, and I understand that. But I will say, you really need to spend a few days there, to fully experience the property. Stay in the rooms, eat at the places, hit the spa, see a show. Then make a decision. But honestly, I've traveled all around the world, and there is really no place I'd rather be.

April 14, 2009 3:49 PM Posted by Lance

You might also consider about Golden Nugget:

Wynn was at quite a different place in his career when be purchased that property and turned it into a Wynn experience. He was building a company, and building his portfolio. And it made financial sense.

Today we know what he can do and does do - and the idea of gutting a property doesn't seem like it would be appealing.

April 14, 2009 4:44 PM Posted by mike_ch

There's really nothing wrong with the dimensions of Mandalay's tower.

I actually have suspected in the future we may see someone buy a hotel, close it, and then just gut the ground-level structures and rebuild a new resort around an older tower. It's expensive, but it's nowhere near as expensive as building a new 50-story tower.

April 14, 2009 8:11 PM Posted by detroit1051

Charlie Rose's interview with Steve Wynn is not on again tonight and is no longer listed on Rose's website.

April 14, 2009 8:19 PM Posted by Jeff in OKC

Let me offer a different opinion.
Sheldon Adelson didn't offer Steve Wynn a job. I think that is taken from The Strip Podcast episode "Merchant Of Venetian" from September 2006, where Adelson said something to the effect of "After I bought The Sands, I said to Wynn 'You've done a great job at Mirage, do you think you could help me at The Sands?'" I take that to mean Adelson asked Wynn for some advice, and Steve Friess may have "enhanced" the meaning when he brought it up to Wynn in his great pre Encore opening walk through interview in December 2008.
Sheldon Adelson did not bring conventions to Las Vegas: Moe Dalitz, along with Joe W. Brown, among others, were instrumental in building the Las Vegas Convention Center in the 1960's. Adelson takes credit for, when he owned Comdex, realizing the Convention Center wasn't charging as much money per foot as they could, so he rented the entire space and doubled, or tripled the booth rent. Leading him to help maximize the convention business in Las Vegas via The Sands Expo Center and his new Venetian/Palazzo spaces.
Tony Marnell brought both the All-Suite Hotel and mini bar concepts to Las Vegas around 1990 with The Rio, several years before Adelson built The Venetian. By many accounts, The Rio also started the finest dining segment, as well.
Mirage has never been the top hotel in town. It has never been more than a very good upper middle class place. Caesars, among others, immediately come to mind as being closer to the top, through the years.
Steve Wynn is, first and foremost, a smart businessman, who knows that, in today's market, buying properties is a much better money play than building. I think most estimates say the current room inventory in Las Vegas, plus those under construction, are enough that the market will be saturated until 2015, or so. It would seem smart growth for a Casino company would be buying, and reasonably remodeling, attractively priced properties.

April 14, 2009 8:22 PM Posted by Hunter


You're correct to mention The Rio, Dalitz and the LVCC.

The only thing I take issue with is your statement that The Mirage was never the top place in town.

Now, I wasn't visiting in 1991/1992 but from everything I have been told and read, The Mirage basically took over the highest roller segment once it built that first set of villas that opened about two years after the main hotel did.

April 14, 2009 10:49 PM Posted by mike_ch

I'd say it's a bit of a tie but give the edge to Caesars. Shortly after those villas opened, they added some fancy new suites with grand pianos and the like for high rollers, plus had the Rainman Suite, etc.

April 14, 2009 10:51 PM Posted by Arthur

So I'm guessing there's no extended version of the Steve Wynn interview with Charlie Rose? =(

April 14, 2009 10:53 PM Posted by Hunter

Yeah but Wynn had all the ink, S&R, and *momentum*. The Strip was stagnant and he revitalized it. I'm not giving this one to Caesars unless someone that was there that I trust tells me different.

April 14, 2009 11:01 PM Posted by mike_ch

Oh I'm not denying that he had a good thing going, but I'm saying that if money was no object you would get one of those Caesars suites (I think they're called King Tut Suites, I have no info of this since I just read about them in a coffee table book at Borders once, but think piano and a big chandelier over the dining room.) They were supposed to rack at $1,000 or so but were always comped anyway.

I don't quite remember what is a villa at Mirage, but I think they're the rooms with the double doors to the pool? AKA "the Nick Papageorgio suite?" Because those are nice but not the same.

Mirage had the press and celebrities eating out of their hands and were all too happy to accomodate movie shoots, but that's like saying that because Palms had all the press and noise a few years ago, they were better than WLV. No, not really.

April 14, 2009 11:03 PM Posted by mike_ch

Well, I stayed up for Steve Wynn, and instead I got... I don't know who this is.

April 15, 2009 6:45 AM Posted by Jeff in OKC

I got it!! "WYNNDALAY ENTERTAINMENT GROUP" It's a can't miss name, don't you think? Of course, if Michael Gaughan were doing this, we'd just turn the M upside down, and use only one N, so we'd only have to buy a new Y.
I do wonder what Mr. Wynn is going to do if there won't be any new construction for the next 5-7 years. He has been moving forward for over 40 years, I can't imagine him slowing down to "let's remodel the bottom 8 floors and jazz up the mountain a bit". Anyone got any ideas?

April 15, 2009 7:25 AM Posted by DavidF

Here is an article from 1993 that compared the Mirage and Cesars High End suites, along with the DI, a bit of a puff piece, but still interesting reading...,2322,815,00.html

April 15, 2009 9:58 AM Posted by Brian Fey

We can debate this "was The Mirage the top place in town" argument over and over, but depending on what you call the top place, we may never solve this. In Macau they break out mass market, vs. VIP play. Vegas does not do this. So I suppose its possible, CP did more VIP than Mirage. We will never know, however, It is a fact, that Mirage was the single top grossing casino in the country, and possibly world, in its hay day. Now did he achieve this, buy mostly mass market, and was he shy on VIP play, possibly, but I seriously doubt that. Becuase at the end of the day, Its the VIP play that generates the revenue for casinos, not ma and pa, dropping $25 into a slot machine. Everyone knows, Wynn usually feels much slower, or less crowded, than a Mirage or NYNY for example. This is because those places are packed with mass market low end players. Yet Wynn many times is the top grossing casino in Nevada. Yet you walk through the place, and say to yourself, man this place is really slow. Any while it might appear slow, they have one guy in their high end room, dropping more money than the 100 people on the rest of the floor all put together.

April 15, 2009 10:18 AM Posted by David McKee

Way upthread, somebody floated the notion of Wynn turning Tim & Tom loose on Bellagio. Heck, even at an arguably lesser property, like "Wynndalay Bay," that could be a prescription for disaster ... unless Poster & Breitling have really changed their ways and are studying the fine points of casino operation at Wynn Resorts. By their own admission, the nitty-gritty of running a casino bored them, and they came into the Golden Nugget with an illusion of wall-to-wall glamor and high rollers, only to find slot players instead. Who they disdained. Also, their inattention to detail was notorious. Unless they've become much more disciplined since their (brief) Golden Nugget era, Tim & Tom seem like very inapt helmsmen for major casino resort during an economic period in which there's no margin for error.

April 16, 2009 6:53 AM Posted by cgriff

I know this is all speculative at this point, but as long as we're speculating... If Wynn Resorts were to make overtures to purchase the Mandalay Bay property, how does the integrated Four Seasons-Las Vegas there complicate matters? Not at all? (Is the 4S a simple leaser of that MB space, or somehow a co-owner?) Curious, as I have never been aware of the terms of the 4S/MB relationship...

April 16, 2009 1:46 PM Posted by David McKee

cgriff, I ran your query by Scott Voeller at M'Bay and he says MGM Mirage owns the Four Seasons outright and 4S manages it for them.

April 16, 2009 4:58 PM Posted by cgriff

Wow, thank you David McKee!

So, if anybody purchases MB, they could re-negotiate with 4S to continue on, or else the new purchaser has their own boutique hotel-within-a-hotel to run... Interesting.

April 16, 2009 10:41 PM Posted by Tom M.

I was in Vegas in1993 and stayed at the TI. Personally, I loved the place with the original pirate theme. Not so much today dalthough it is still a very nice resort. In 1993, there is no doubt that the Mirage was the king of the strip. I am sure that Caesar's, Desert Inn, and the Hilton all competed for the higher end customer, but the best resort by far was the Mirage.

I thought the Charlie Rose interview was just a puff piece that was designed to be shown in conjuction with the opening of Encore. For some reason it got pushed out by another story, and frankly, I am surprised it was shown on 60 minutes at all. There was absolutely no substance at all , it was just an advertisement for his friend Steve.

The Four Season's hotel group is a management company and I am pretty sure doesn't own any hotel properties. They are built by investors and run by 4S. I thought I remembered that this was a model that MGM was going to pursue as part of its post City Center business model, but my memory may not be complete on that point.

While there may not be a Wynn interview on Charlie Rose, there are recently, two very interesting shows in which he talks to architects. One was on March 31 with three Boston architects and the other was on Apr 2nd with Architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable. If you love interesting discussions on architecture you need to watch these two segments. You can see them on Charlies web site here:

April 19, 2009 11:01 PM Posted by Lance

Is there a source or link somewhere online to see interior shots of the Golden Nugget during the Wynn era?

April 20, 2009 12:38 PM Posted by motoman

Item dated last Friday, April 17:
David R. Sisk, Wynn Resorts Exec. VP and CFO, has left the company, apparently as of sometime last month....

April 20, 2009 12:55 PM Posted by Hunter

Yeah, we were discussing this on Twitter - I heard that he was actually replaced with a relative of Wynn. Not sure if that's true or not.

April 26, 2009 9:56 AM Posted by Joe

Oh just a quick reminder, they are starting to remove the "love by cirque du soleil" banner from the suites' windows of the Mirage starting from the back

April 26, 2009 10:01 AM Posted by Hunter

I believe they're planning on replacing it - just cleaning the windows and probably installing a new wrap that isn't sun damaged.

April 27, 2009 9:29 AM Posted by steve_c

Yeah this isn't the first time they have replaced the Love banners on Mirage, I'll have to look through my photos but I think it was sometime last year that the banners were replaced.

April 27, 2009 12:24 PM Posted by mike_ch

The banners were replaced with grey 20th anniversary banners